Had I realized how popular flash fiction had become I’d have labelled my shorter fictive works as such much sooner. I haven’t thought about it in that way, but my Fortune Cookie Friday posts are nothing other than directed flash exercises based in a Chinese food premise.
Extremely short fiction is an interesting sub-genre of writing. It offers a lot of opportunity for a writer to be flexible, to surrender his or her usual bag of tricks in favor of just making something coherent. One focuses on getting the story over the narrative hurdles and under the length constraints, the process forcing the core of the arc constantly to the forefront.
As with all things, it can frequently be frustrating. One can find himself really enjoying one aspect of a story and wanting to explore it further, but not having the space. For my own writing, I ameliorate that sense with the old adage of leaving the audience wanting more, but directed toward myself. If I like an aspect of a story so much that it distracts from the narrative I’d rather end the work wanting to write a new one that features said element than to have a slightly longer piece, one that mightn’t be as good, and a sense of being burnt out on a character, setting, narrative device, or other basic writing ingredient. If I want more, I’ll write more.
Such was the case with the blood piece. I really wanted another hundred words. I wanted to fill in some dialogue elements I’d had to strip, I’d wanted to stretch the climax, I’d wanted to more fully render Bob and Maria. I’d wanted to do a lot, but if I’d had another hundred words, I’d have wanted a hundred more after. It would have gone on until I’d have had an unfinished, less powerful piece. Or maybe it would have been great. The point is, it would have ceased to be what it had successfully become, a finished, short story, and instead become a longer piece of dubious completion. I’m happy taking the former over the latter.
A benefit of writing flash I’d not foreseen is my ability to juggle it with longer form work. I’m very much a one at a time writer. I assume most are. Getting into one story necessarily means excluding others, means redirecting your thoughts to serve a singular narrative. Flash, though, is less a long distance swim than a polar bear plunge. It takes a different set of skills, it takes a frantic energy but not a great deal of stamina. In writing yesterday’s piece and in setting up the prompts for my next few I don’t find myself greatly distracted from the longer form piece that’s still taking shape. I don’t feel redirected, or uncomfortable, there’s none of that switched shoe sense one gets when he spends a day in one set and then wears another in the evening. They still fit but it’s an effort to feel comfortable in them. Keeping to podiatrist approved analogies, flash fiction, for me, is a set of slippers. They fit very comfortably for a given task, serve that task well, but don’t prevent me from wearing the running shoes I’ll need for a jog.